Nowhere can we socially distance more effectively and enjoyably than when hiking in nature, ideally on the less-trod trails. Como Lake hiking surprisingly offers plenty of authentic escapism from its narrow, car-jammed roads lacing its western shore. Byron, Stendhal, Virgil, Plini and Verdi amongst other, inspiration-seeking creative greats, found their muse in the blue-green womb of Lacus Larius. Nested between the lush Alpine hills of Italy and reaching north towards Switzerland, nature and fancy set you free to roam.
No lake beyond the Italian border today still exudes such balance between luxurious elegance and rustic charm as the Apennine peninsula’s third largest, the Lago di Como does. Beyond fashion, Italy — the “boot”, thrives on shapes. A lanky runner with a bucolic woman on his head, the wondrous contour of this lake stirs storytelling invented on its purely accidental façade.
Poetic mood sways one’s mind in a place where even the winds have different names — the northern tivano in the morning and the breva from the south in the afternoon.
Hiking the slow life of the Como Lake
Now that we can finally again breathe the cleaner air outdoors, after the pandemic confinement, hiking lures our soft bodies out. I have hiked the world, but my favourite strolls include some culture, edible pickings and water springs along the route, dramatic vistas, and of course shapely mountains gazelled over in a warm but not hot climate. The Como Lake’s blooming flora and safe encounters with its fauna (no poisonous snakes and spiders here) of its Mediterranean microclimate attract me over the very dry-aired Austrian and Swiss peaks.
Paths laced with sprawling figs, majestic chestnuts, silver-ash olives, oleanders, kiwis and the fertility symbolising pomegranate trees promise a delicious stroll. From late August till November is the best time to visit if it’s the natural bounty you are after. Otherwise, late spring can be less rainy than the months before.
While my starting point was the majestic Villa d’Este, whose gardens are still otherworldly stunning (the hydrangeas are breath-stopping, and there is even a waterfall beloved by the resident ducks), Como hiking offers more than one trail. On the western side of the lake starting in Cernobbio, the limestone and granite mountains guide you along with a mild incline at first passing a pictorial church with cemetery in Rovenna. You can continue further up inland to Monte Bisbino, passing three crosses, but I prefer the scenic hike north through the village of Moltrasio where the Via Verde starts all the way to Laglio.
After about over an hour of mostly flat strolling your gaze reaches Bellagio, the painterly town on the horn of the split of the Como and Lecco lakes. There, Magda Guaitamacchi nested in Salita Serbelloni 27 creates beautiful ceramics. Further along my trail, towards Monte di Urio, I saw perhaps the most beautiful kitchen view under the sky, literally, the alfresco cooking stove (pictured bellow) inspired a wonderful, affordable life in this northern corner of Italy. Nearby a beekeeper sells honey, an authentic Slow-food souvenir. I descended down to Urio, catching a ferry back to Cernobbio.
This trail surely inspired many of the locals to a peace of mind. Strolling along, I was assured that it seduced countless intrepid visitors like myself. The inventor electric torch by Alessandro Volta was a Como resident, indeed a spark happened by the lake.
Beware, the Internet search yields lots of ultra commercial mind-washing on Como. Go spy on celebrities in Hollywood and let the Clooneys enjoy their family life by the lake. Enjoy the luxurious grand hotels (Tremezzo, Villa d’Este and Mandarin Oriental) and do not hatch plans around who stayed where. You would miss the most important part of the trip, the indescribable beauty of this area that many astute writers gasped at, wordless.
Como hiking is magic. You do not only wander through the orchards, eyes widely gulping from the lake vistas, but the trails take you through tiny villages offering a glimpse into the simple life here on the Lago di Como. Higher above the shores, the life gets more rustic, calm and away from the glamour and the visiting tourists who often can spoil the potential of the experience being here, in this moment, at this wonderful place on Earth. The Mediterranean microclimate leaps onto this pre-Alpine zone.
I hope my photo gallery of the above images taken during my fulfilling hikes on the Western hillsides of the Como Lake will inspire you to stride along on your next visit to this northern Italian region. Heavily hit in the spring 2020 Covid crisis, Italy is currently open to welcome Europeans.
As some popular travel destinations have opened for the summer season in Europe, the numbers of Covid cases in most are rising. The heavily hit economies are anxious to herd in visitors. Italy, reliant on foreign tourism wants to break the unfortunate struggle, and if you really want to get to see the boot less besieged by traffic, this an opportunity not to be missed. Still, precautions must be taken and visiting less potentially crowded hotspots is better, so skip the pretty lakeside towns and head up to the hills! The view gets even better from the high up.